John McDonnell, the Shadow chancellor, has said that the Labour Party could form a minority government without a general election if the Brexit deal of Theresa May is voted down in parliament.
His comments signify a change of tack for the Labour leadership. The party has been arguing for a new general election amidst the uncertainty over Brexit.
Talking at an event that was sponsored by Reuters today, McDonnell said that it was the duty of the monarch to offer the opposition parties the opportunity to form a government if the current administration was not able to win votes in the House of Commons.
He said that this was already being seen after the UK government was forced to accept the amendments to its finance bill yesterday, instead of accept defeat. McDonnell said that the move was “extraordinary” and had pushed the United Kingdom into “uncharted territory.”
He stated: “If it’s a minority government and they can’t obtain a majority in parliament, usually it’s the duty of the monarch to offer to the opposition the opportunity to form a government.”
He claimed that the administration of Theresa May was already on the verge of being unable to govern. He stated: “The test is losing consistent votes on the deal itself.”
Currently, PM May is in Brussels to sign off her Brexit deal ahead of the crucial summit with European leaders that is scheduled this weekend.
McDonnell said that the strength of feeling against the Brexit deal of May should not be underestimated. He said that she would be struggling to get a deal through parliament.
The shadow chancellor said that he was confident that the Labour MPs would vote against May’s deal. He said that the leadership would be able to “hold the side down.”
Earlier today, Amber Rudd, the new work and pensions secretary, said that the Commons would be stopping a no deal scenario materialising.
However, she continued: “I think the likelihood is, despite what people say, that the withdrawal agreement will get through.”
McDonnell seemed to be lukewarm to the idea of a second vote. He said that he feared that it would be producing “the same or a similar result” and create more division.
He added that if there was another referendum – which is supported by Keir Starmer, the shadow Brexit secretary, – the option of staying in the European Union would be forming “part of the discussion.”
Tom Brake, the Brexit spokesperson of the Liberal Democrats, stated: “It is shameful that Labour is discussing forming a minority government whilst refusing to clarify their policy on Brexit. People and businesses are facing huge uncertainty and the Labour party is doing nothing to reassure them.”
He added: “All John McDonnell has done today is further muddy the waters of whether Labour will support a People’s Vote, including the option to remain in the EU. It is disappointing he could not bring himself to join the majority of his party and voters in opposing the Conservative government on Brexit.”
He continued: “The Labour frontbench must be honest with the British public and stop playing self-serving political games with our future.”